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Post-IslamismThe Changing Faces of Political Islam$

Asef Bayat

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199766062

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199766062.001.0001

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Hizbullah’s Infitah:

Hizbullah’s Infitah:

A Post-Islamist Turn?

Chapter:
(p.240) 8Hizbullah’s Infitah:
Source:
Post-Islamism
Author(s):

Joseph Alagha

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199766062.003.0008

Abstract and Keywords

Since the end of the civil war in 1990, the resistance movement Hizbullah transformed by altering its ideology and militant character of the 1980s – when it anathematized the political system and regarded the Lebanese state as an apostate – to a gradual integration process into political and public life. Within the domains of its infitah (‘opening-up’) project, Hizbullah implemented its integration (moderation) program through a bona fide policy shift that seemingly adheres to the wilayat al-faqih (guardianship of the jurisprudent) rhetoric, while in reality it has distanced itself from it by providing alternative reading, justification, and reinterpretation. Could Hizbullah’s infitah policy be interpreted as a post-Islamist trend or read as a bottom-up Islamization in disguise?

Keywords:   Post-Islamism, Lebanon, Hizbullah, Islamism, political Islam

In the “Arab Spring,” the Lebanese Shiite resistance movement Hizbullah issued political declarations blessing the Tunisian and Egyptian people, in particular, and the Arab masses, in general, for their drive for “freedom and dignity.”1 Hizbullah’s secretary-general, Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, added, “This is the true path when people believe in their resolve….[T]his is the new Middle East created by its own people.” He concluded, “Your Spring has begun; no one can lead you to another winter. Your belief, vigilance, and resilience will overcome all difficulties and make you triumphant.”2 Within this regional context, Hizbullah managed to affect a tangible change in the political system by democratic means. It virtually succeeded in ruling Lebanon after it obtained a majority of sixty-eight MPs in the 128-seat legislature, a constitutional move that allowed it to name the prime minister and wield significant political power over the cabinet, the council of ministers. This is unprecedented in Lebanese politics, since instead of resorting to political violence, the militant-Islamist organization followed constitutional and institutional channels, engaging the other constituents of Lebanese society in diplomacy, negotiations, and bargaining, even though Hizbullah’s military power is by far greater than that of the Lebanese Army.

A “terrorist organization” in the eyes of the United States, Israel, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and other Western countries, after almost thirty years since its founding, Hizbullah seems to care less about its regional ambitions such as the “destruction of the state of Israel and the liberation of Jerusalem,”3 as its 1985 Open Letter or Manifesto affirmed. How did the rapid evolution of Hizbullah from a marginal splinter group to a dominant group in national and international politics come about? Why did Hizbullah content itself with a domestic agenda of having the upper (p.241) hand in Lebanese politics? What happened to its regional aspirations and confrontation with the so-called two “Satans,” the United States and Israel? Was that apparent policy change only in semantics, or is the organization capable of enforcing its regional agenda, as it managed to put its teeth firmly in Lebanese politics? What is the role of geopolitics in this respect?

In this chapter, I show how Hizbullah, through the years since its inception, has transformed its ideas, discourse, theory, practice, and strategies, highlighting the organizational changes that took place along the way. I discuss why such changes have happened: Were these due to internal causes, Hizbullah’s inability to materialize its blueprint, or due to international pressure? What role did 9/11 and its aftermath play? In what way have the changes in Iran since Ayatollah Khomeini’s death impacted Hizbullah? This chapter also presents a concerted effort to map the DNA of Hizbullah, not only by studying its discursive shifts but also by analyzing the organization’s new policy orientations and identity construction and reconstruction in the past three decades.

Departure from Islamism?

Asef Bayat coined the term post-Islamism as early as 1996 and distinguished himself from other scholars who later on employed the concept, but apparently with different connotations.4 According to Bayat, post-Islamism represents in the first place a condition, a social and political one, in which the appeal and the sources for legitimacy of Islamist politics are exhausted after a phase of experimentation. The adherents become aware of the anomalies and shortcomings of their system while attempting to moderate and institutionalize their movement.5 Post-Islamism is also a project representing a conscious attempt to transcend Islamism in social, political, and intellectual domains. Thus, it is an endeavor to overturn the underlying singular authoritative voice of Islamism and replace it with a plurality of voices of authority, in other words, “emphasizing rights instead of duties; historicity rather than fixed Holy Scriptures; freedom instead of rigidity; and the future instead of the past.” Yet it is neither anti-Islamic nor un-Islamic or secular; rather, it is an undertaking to fuse “religiosity and rights, Islam and liberty, faith and freedom.” The Islamic social movement’s ideology comes to be plural in this state, not basing itself solely on Islam but, rather, becoming capable of including other (secular) ideas and denominations.6

My interviewees from Hizbullah’s rank and file defined Islamists as fervent Muslim believers or pious (religious) youth and Islamism as religiosity (p.242) and strict adherence to the divine laws. They defined post-Islamism as a process of infitah, or opening up to global cultural trends while preserving indigenous values as an Islamic moral alternative.7 How post-Islamist, then, has Hizbullah become, if at all? Is Hizbullah on a trajectory of post-Islamism, or is its infitah to be understood, as Mandaville characterized, as bottom-up Islamization in disguise?8

In truth, Hizbullah witnessed remarkable transformations in the past three-plus decades. From its founding as an Islamic movement of social and political protest during 1978–1985, it evolved into a full-fledged social movement between 1985 and 1991 and then into a parliamentary political party from 1992 to the present. Since its inception, Hizbullah has adopted Ayatollah Khomeini’s theory of wilayat al-faqih (guardianship of the jurisprudent) as its ideology in the Lebanese social and political conditions. Khomeini’s wilayat al-faqih was imported to Lebanon, serving as a blueprint for a progressive Islamic state to be emulated by Hizbullah in its constituencies. Illustrating the vital importance given to becoming a member of “Ummat Hizbullah,” a Hizbullah cadre told me, on condition of anonymity, that a person who tried to join the party but failed the process of screening (ta’tir) that Hizbullah’s prospective members undergo three times returned with an assault rifle and killed his recruiting officer. Another member told me that as a practice of indoctrination and as an initiation ceremony, new Hizbullah recruits had to repeatedly state: “If the jurisprudent told you to kill yourself, then you have to do it.”9 This illustrates not only indoctrination but also the total obedience to the faqih.

In the early 1980s, Khomeini instructed ‘Ali Khamina’i, who was at the time deputy minister of defense, to take full responsibility of the Lebanese Hizbullah. Since then, Khamina’i has become Hizbullah’s “godfather.” That is why, since its inception, Hizbullah, based on a religious and ideological stance, fully abides by the ideas and opinions of Khomeini as communicated by Khamina’i. During that initial period, the religious/ideological bond between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Lebanon could be examined from the following declarations by Hizbullah and Iranian officials—Shaykh Hasan Trad: “Iran and Lebanon are one people in one country”; Sayyid Ibrahim Amin Al-Sayyid: “We do not say that we are part of Iran, we are Iran in Lebanon and Lebanon in Iran”; Ali Akbar Muhtashami: “We are going to support Lebanon politically and militarily like we buttress one of our own Iranian districts”; Shaykh Hasan Srur: “We declare to the whole world that the Islamic Republic of Iran is our mother, religion, Ka’ba, and our veins.”10

(p.243) In the 1980s, Hizbullah advocated the establishment of an Islamic state in Lebanon and maintained the ahl al-dhimma category with respect to non-Muslims.11 In spite of its exhortation of Christians to convert to Islam, Hizbullah did not seek to impose this conversion by force. Rather, the party applied its theory of tolerance to those Christians living in its constituencies, as well as to other Christians, as long as they were not “treacherous or aggressive.” In conformity with the Prophetic tradition and the Quran, Hizbullah stressed that there should be “no compulsion in religion” (Quran 2:256) and an “equitable world” (Quran 3:64) or common ground that should guide relationships between Muslims and Christians. As such, it emphasized that the common ground between ahl al-dhimma and Muslims involves the social values of mutual tolerance, respect, brotherhood, and solidarity. On this basis, Hizbullah recognized the human freedom, that is, social and religious freedom, of Christians but not their political autonomy, as was the case in the 1926 French Mandate Constitution and 1943 Independence Constitution. Thus, in the 1980s, contrary to the Prophetic tradition that granted non-Muslims partnership in political structures, Hizbullah’s “tolerance” or “inclusiveness” excluded Christians from political life, which could be regarded as a discriminatory practice. Hizbullah’s then policy seemed to imply that tolerance is the responsibility of the “majority” and integration is the responsibility of the “minority.”

Since 1985, there developed a number of changes in Hizbullah’s ideological identification with Iran’s ruling elite. Hizbullah argued that during the early phase of its formation, it needed a unifying religious-political ideology, rather than an elaborate political program. Thus, it based itself on wilayat al-faqih and regarded Khomeini as the jurisconsult of all Muslims.12 In the beginning, the organization was, ideologically, completely dependent on Khomeini. Later on this dependency witnessed some leeway, in the sense that Hizbullah did not blindly follow the Iranian regime; rather, it had some specificity (khususiyya), since in his capacity as the Supreme Leader (Rahbar), Khomeini was endowed with the sole right to determine the legitimacy (legitimate authority) of Hizbullah. Khomeini highlighted certain precepts within which Hizbullah could move freely; however, he left their implementation to the party’s discretion. Thus, although Hizbullah was ideologically dependent on the Iranian regime, it had some room to maneuver in its decisions pertaining to some cases in Lebanese domestic affairs. Even though the fragmentation of religious authority, that is, the multiplicity of marja’s among the Shiites, continued after Khomeini’s (p.244) death, in Hizbullah’s case the issue of marja’iyya was determined on the doctrinal-ideological basis of following the official marja’ al-taqlid, who is recognized by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Thus, Hizbullah’s religious authority was and still is the Iranian faqih. This made the transition after Khomeini’s death smoother.

Up until 1991, Hizbullah considered the Quran as the constitution of the Islamic umma and Islam as both a religious and a governmental order (din wa dawla). The party enjoined Muslims to strive, using all legitimate means, in order to implement the Islamic order, wherever they might be.13 In the period 1985–1991, Hizbullah regarded the Lebanese political system, which was dominated by the political Maronites (Catholic Christians), as a jahiliyya (pre-Islamic pagan) system. It applied this classification to every non-Islamic system: be it patriotic, democratic, or nationalistic, even if it were governed by Muslims.14 In other words, Hizbullah pursued the establishment of an Islamic state from the perspective of religious and political ideology. The religious ideology, as Hizbullah’s leading cadres argued, enjoined adherents to instate God’s sovereignty and divine governance on earth through hakimiyya and to execute God’s law by instituting an Islamic order as a taklif shar’i (religious and legal obligation). According to the political ideology, Hizbullah did not want to impose an Islamic order by force unless an overwhelming majority of the Lebanese voted in its favor through a referendum. This should be taken with apprehension since Hizbullah’s rhetoric was different from what it was actually doing on the ground; it was actively engaged in preparing the way for establishing an Islamic order, through a bottom-up process, at least in its constituencies.

In its third stage of evolution, from 1992 on, Hizbullah has experienced a considerable ideological shift. Since the early 1990s, it regarded founding an Islamic state as a “legal abstraction” and dropped its demands for its implementation in Lebanon. This paved the way for the party to employ the concept of muwatana (citizenship) instead of ahl al-dhimma. Hizbullah’s intellectuals based this current practice on a novel interpretation of the Prophetic tradition, as sanctioned by Shiite jurisprudence. Thus, since the 1990s and into the twenty-first century, Hizbullah has made great strides forward in acknowledging the human, civil, economic, social, cultural, and most importantly, political rights of the so-called ex-dhimmis, recognizing their right to full citizenship, as citizens of equal status and rights. This is not a rhetorical shift; rather, it is a major policy alteration, which is being implemented, and it is aimed at making the “other” secure in a shared Lebanese polity that might one day be dominated by the Shiite majority. (p.245) With this new policy of alliances, diplomacy, negotiations, and bargaining, Hizbullah has been able to spread its wings and flanks to a tangible part of the Christian constituents of the country.

As a prelude to contesting the 1992 legislative elections, Hizbullah gained more resources, moderated its discourse, initiated several policies to broaden its appeal to a larger constituency, and embarked on further institutionalization. Sayyid ‘Abbas al-Musawi, Hizbullah’s second secretary-general, initiated a policy of openness and dialogue toward the Lebanese myriad. After his death, his student and successor Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, the third secretary-general, continued this process of mobilization and organization at the grassroots level to support advocacy in and outside of parliament.15

The year 1992 was a central year in shaping Hizbullah’s evolving identity. The party faced a challenge in deciding whether to participate in the parliamentary elections or not. Hizbullah’s twelve-member committee took a positive decision after much heated internal debate and discussions, followed by Iranian arbitration (tahkim). Since the faqih is the one who determines “legitimacy” (even in practical political matters), Khamina’i had to intercede and grant legitimacy for participation. This caused a considerable schism within Hizbullah, because Subhi al-Tufayli, Hizbullah’s first secretary-general, contested the decision and pursued a confrontational stance with the party and the Lebanese state. Al-Tufayli held a high post in the leadership of Hizbullah in the early 1980s. Nevertheless, he later created minor dissent in the party for reasons that apparently were socioeconomic (“Revolution of the Hungry” in 1997) but, in fact, involved control of the B’albak region. Al-Tufayli today represents that category of Hizbullah member who still upholds the Iranian revolutionary ideology of the 1980s. He repeatedly accused Hizbullah of “protecting the borders of Israel” since it prevents jihadis from targeting it or crossing the border, and he criticized Iran for “serving the interests of the US.” Al-Tufayli emphatically stated, “This is not the Hizbullah I founded, and this is not the Iran of Khomeini.”16

Asef Bayat has noted that Islamic movements like Hizbullah are constituted of many layers and orientations that make up a collectivity, but one that is fluid and fragmented. This collectivity remains coherent when its leaders are successful in creating a hegemonic reading of events that gains consensus among its followers. This means that there is always a danger of losing adherents due to integration or moderation. This can lead the more radical elements of the social movement, such as al-Tufayli, to leave the movement because they disagree with the course it is taking.17

(p.246) By giving an extended interpretation to the doctrine of wilayat al-faqih (i.e., applying it to the Lebanese multiconfessional, multireligious society, rather than to “monolithic” Iran, with its predominantly Shiite majority), the committee strongly recommended participation in the elections. This was in harmony with Hizbullah’s holistic vision, which favored living up to the expectations of the people by serving their socioeconomic and political interests. The committee added that Hizbullah’s greater jihad and dedication to addressing the plight of the people did not contradict its priority of a smaller military jihad for the sake of the liberation of occupied land. As such, participating in elections would lead to the achievement of good political results and could also be regarded as a leading step toward interaction with others. By this, Hizbullah presents a novel experience in the infitah of a young Islamic party. The committee stressed that this participation was in accordance with the Lebanese specificities (khususiyyat) as well as the nature of the proposed elections, which allowed for a considerable margin of freedom of choice. In short, the committee concluded that the sum total of the pros (masalih) outweighed the cons (mafasid) by far. That was why participation in the parliament would be worthwhile, since it was viewed as one of the ways of influencing change and making Hizbullah’s voice heard, not only domestically but also regionally and internationally through the podiums made available to the members of parliament.18 Thus, it seems that Hizbullah was forced by political circumstances, the Ta’if Agreement, Lebanon’s new 1990 constitution, and the end of the civil war, to adjust to a new phase in its history by propagating a matter-of-fact political program and by merging into the Lebanese political system.

A further shift occurred in the interpretation of the authority of the faqih when Hizbullah argued that it did not consider the current regime in the Islamic Republic of Iran as the jurisconsult of all Muslims and, in consequence, not all Islamic movements had to abide by the orders and directives of the faqih or the regime.19 In May 1995, Khamina’i appointed Nasrallah and Shaykh Muhammad Yazbik, head of the religio-judicial council, as his religious deputies (wakilayn shar’iyyan) in Lebanon. This move granted Hizbullah special prerogatives and delegated responsibilities (taklif shar’i) that reflect a great independence in practical performance. Thus, Hizbullah consolidated its financial resources, since the one-fifth religious tax (khums) imposed on those Lebanese Shiites who followed Khamina’i as their authority of emulation (marja’ ), as well as their alms (zakat) and religious (shar’i) monies, would pour directly into Hizbullah coffers, instead of being channeled through Iran, as had been the case.

(p.247) The interpretation of authority took another dramatic shift after the Syrian withdrawal in April 2005. In conformity with its policy to change when circumstances change, Hizbullah switches from Iranian to local authority when it suits its purposes. Although the watershed decision to participate in the Lebanese cabinet ideologically required the shar’i judgment and legitimacy of the faqih, Hizbullah set a precedent by securing religious approval and legitimacy from Shaykh ‘Afif al-Nabulsi20—at the time, the head of the Association of Shiite Religious Scholars of Jabal ‘Amil in south Lebanon—and not Khamina’i, a move that indicates even more independence in decision making.

Thus, Hizbullah heeds Lebanese religious authority in addition to the Iranian one, and therefore, its participation in the Lebanese cabinet was relegated to an administrative matter, not a doctrinal one. Consequently, Hizbullah’s leadership was capable of taking independent decisions. Instantly, Hizbullah joined the cabinet with two ministers and proliferated in Lebanese state institutions and the administrative structure just before the conservative Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his government were sworn to power in Iran. This led to increased Lebanonization that is more in line with the specificities (khususiyyat) of Lebanese society, rather than blind adherence to Iran.

Therefore, Hizbullah moved from complete ideological dependency on Khomeini to much less dependency after his death. The party gained more independence in decision making, not only in practical political issues but also in military and doctrinal issues, to the extent that it seems as if Hizbullah exercised almost independent decision making, at least in some cases. Even in military matters, Hizbullah does not always heed Iranian orders if they do not serve its overall interest (maslaha). Two cases in point that illustrate this trend are Sharon’s “April 2002 West Bank counterterrorism offensive” and Barak’s December 2008–January 2009 “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza. Iran strongly urged Hizbullah to open the northern front across the Lebanese–Israeli border in order to release pressure on the Palestinians,21 but Hizbullah adamantly refused because such a move was considered detrimental to its national interest (maslaha). This trend continued after Ahmadinejad won a second term in the controversial June 2009 presidential elections.

Although Hizbullah was inspired by the Islamic Revolution, it operates like any ordinary political party functioning within a non-Islamic state and a multireligious confessional and sectarian state. Hizbullah cannot go beyond being a political party operating within the Lebanese (p.248) public sphere. That is why, for instance, in the parliamentary elections, it reached out and allied itself with secular parties and former enemies on the Lebanese scene, like any political party that accommodates protest via negotiations and bargaining, making compromises on some doctrinal aspects. In the process, Hizbullah moved from separation to integration into Lebanese society, eventually becoming part of the national state. Hizbullah’s voting behavior in the legislature progressively shifted from (1) voting against granting confidence to the cabinet between 1992 and 1996 to (2) abstaining between 1998 and 2004 to (3) voting for confidence since 2005, the year the party joined the cabinet. Thus, Hizbullah granted its approval only after it participated.

These changed framing processes and new mobilization tactics are evidence of Hizbullah’s attempts to transcend communal boundaries by creating imagined solidarities and having partially shared interests with other communities.22 This is necessary since the existing Lebanese political system mandates intercommunity cooperation, which suggests that Hizbullah has learned to operate within the established political framework. Furthermore, the party needs to be careful not to revert to its extremist image because this could lead to a loss of the resources it gained due to its moderation. To conclude, Hizbullah as a social movement gained political power in this stage of its evolution. This empowerment reinforces its identification with its national context at the expense of transnational solidarities.

The tug-of-war between the Hizbullah-led opposition (March 8 Group), on the one hand, and the Lebanese cabinet and its supporters (March 14 Trend), on the other, led to bitter polarization, which plunged Lebanon into 537 days of stalemate and political deadlock, from December 1, 2006, to May 21, 2008. The “Doha Accord” of May 21, 2008, between March 14 and March 8, negotiated by the Arab League, granted Hizbullah veto power in the next national unity thirty-member cabinet by a margin of eleven ministers, while March 14 acquired sixteen ministers, and the president, three. Hizbullah ended its sit-in in downtown Beirut and dismantled its tent city. After six months of vacuum in the seat of the presidency, something unprecedented in Lebanese history, the consensus president, army commander general Michel Sulayman, was elected on May 25, 2008, by 118 votes out of 127 MPs.

A Post-Islamist Trajectory?

While pursuing policies so as to work within the electoral fabric of Lebanon, Hizbullah did not abandon its rhetoric vis the wilayat al-faqih. In (p.249) fact it legitimized its political program of working within a multicultural, multireligious country with reference to wilayat al-faqih without encroaching upon its doctrinal-ideological, Islamic-religious convictions.23 In May 2008, after March 8 gained veto power in the Lebanese cabinet, Nasrallah reiterated,

I am honored to be a member of the party of wilayat al-faqih. The just, knowledgeable, wise, courageous, righteous, honest, and faithful faqih….Wilayat al-faqih tells us [Hizbullah] that Lebanon is a multiconfessional, multireligious country that you have to preserve and uphold.24

With this unshakable commitment to wilayat al-faqih, Hizbullah reformulated what it meant by an Islamic state by making a categorical distinction between al-fikr al-siyasi (political ideology), which it maintained, and al-barnamaj al-siyasi (political program), which it promoted. From an ideological perspective, Hizbullah is committed to an Islamic state, and it will not be dropped as a legal abstraction. However, the party’s political program has to take into account the political status quo and the overall functioning of the Lebanese political system. Hizbullah characterizes the Lebanese political situation as a complicated mold of sectarian-confessional specificities that prohibit the establishment of an Islamic state, not only from a practical perspective but also from a doctrinal one. Hizbullah’s political ideology stipulates that an Islamic state should be established on solid foundations having full legitimacy and sovereignty from the people. Since the general will of the Lebanese people is against the establishment of an Islamic state, then it is not plausible to establish one.

On November 30, 2009, after revealing Hizbullah’s Manifesto, or new political platform, which neither mentions the Islamic state nor refers to wilayat al-faqih, Nasrallah affirmed in answer to a question that there is no contradiction/opposition between Hizbullah’s belief in wilayat al-faqih, on the one hand, and the erection of a strong institutionalized Lebanese state, on the other. On the contrary, wilayat al-faqih sanctions and allows Hizbullah’s integration into the political system. Not only that, in line with the Vatican’s position and papal guidance, Nasrallah added that Hizbullah believes that Lebanon is a blessing and has accomplished great historical achievements. He reiterated Imam Musa al-Sadr’s stance that “Lebanon is the definitive nation to all its citizens,” which is in conformity with the Lebanese constitution.25

(p.250) Thus, Hizbullah shifted its position through its acceptance of and engagement in the democratic process under a sectarian-confessional political and administrative system. More dramatically, Hizbullah’s political program modified its demand for the abolition of political sectarianism and adopted the political Maronite discourse, which stresses the abolition of political sectarianism in mentality before eradicating it in the texts. In line with the Ta’if Agreement and its earlier election programs, Hizbullah’s 2009 Manifesto called for the establishment of a “National Body for the Abolition of Political Sectarianism,” since sectarianism is perceived as a threat to consensual democracy and national coexistence.26 Although Nasrallah deemed the sectarian system a tribal system, he clarified:

Let us be realistic. The abolition of political sectarianism is one of the most difficult issues and cannot be accomplished overnight….[N]obody can dictate how to abolish it in a sentence or two. Rather, if after years of debate, ranging from five to thirty years, we find out that political sectarianism cannot be abolished, then let us be bold enough to say that what we agreed upon in the Ta’if Agreement cannot be realized. However, till then, the Lebanese need to found the “National Body for the Abolition of Political Sectarianism” in order to initiate the debate in a constructive manner.27

The 2009 Manifesto delineates an almost complete Lebanonization of Hizbullah, at least in discourse, since it no longer included transnational links such as wilayat al-faqih and the Islamic state in its primary frame of authority. Furthermore, it gives primacy to the national political arena for achieving national goals that would be beneficial to all Lebanese. Moreover, the manifesto represents Hizbullah’s ideological shifts in assimilating into the political system to accomplish its goals through political initiatives and continued cooperation with other parties. In fact, this manifesto might signify Hizbullah’s trajectory toward a post-Islamist trend in practice, thus transcending Islamism, its exclusivist platform, and evolving in the pluralistic political reality of Lebanon, even though certain Islamist rhetoric might still be voiced and even though Hizbullah’s political interests, at least for the time being, may keep it an ally of the Islamist regime in Iran.

Hizbullah laid the groundwork for this precept of practice earlier. On May 26, 2008, the party celebrated the eighth anniversary of the nearly complete Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon through a fiery speech delivered (p.251) by Nasrallah, who stressed that Hizbullah abides by the Ta’if Agreement, will honor the Doha Accord to the letter, and will continue to participate in the political system as it is. Nasrallah’s stance remained the same after the fiasco of March 8 to acquire the majority of the seats in the June 2009 legislative elections. Hizbullah gave up its veto power and helped to broker a national unity cabinet on November 9, 2009, based on the previously agreed-on power-sharing formula: fifteen seats for March 14, five seats for the centralist coalition of the president, and ten seats for March 8. Thus, contrary to its military power and demographic strength, in an endeavor to uphold consensual democracy, Hizbullah contented itself with two ministers out of the ten allocated to March 8. Further measures of political compromise, such as conceding ministerial quotas to Sunni and Christian representatives in the cabinet, suggest that Hizbullah remains committed indeed to a mode of governance that is inherently communal, pluralist, and representative.

Conclusions

Through heavy reliance on a strict application of Khomeini’s wilayat al-faqih in the 1980s, “Hizbullah—The Islamic Revolution in Lebanon” emerged as a strong internal organization with a limited following. Subhi al-Tufayli’s firm, uncompromising political discourse, and his repeated references to the establishment of an Islamic state, which was unprecedented in Lebanese political discourse, backfired domestically, considerably alienating the party from other political and social movements and from the Lebanese public sphere. Thus, Hizbullah’s policies were counterproductive, leading to a failure to integrate into Lebanese political life, especially after the party’s initial vehement criticisms of the Ta’if Agreement.

Since the end of the civil war in 1990, Hizbullah has been confronting major developments in Lebanon: prominently, the emergence of a pluralistic public sphere and increasing openness toward other communities, political parties, and interest groups in the Lebanese myriad. Through a new interpretation of wilayat al-faqih, Hizbullah altered its discourse, priorities, and overall political outlook. The mixed confessional space in Lebanon led Hizbullah to move from marginalization to infitah, which allowed the party to become a major player in the Lebanese public sphere by participating in the parliamentary and municipal elections—and even obtaining a majority in the legislature in 2011. In short, in the early 1990s, Hizbullah started promoting its Islamic identity and agenda by following (p.252) a pragmatic political program, mainly to allay the fears of Christians and other Muslims who were opposed to the Islamic state. In the meantime, Hizbullah remained faithful to its Shiite constituency by employing a bottom-up Islamization process and working within the Lebanese state’s political and administrative structures while, at the same time, establishing Islamic institutions within civil society.

In the third stage, Hizbullah faced the problem of reconciling its political ideology with political reality. Thus, the party shifted from a jihadi outlook to a more flexible shari‘a perspective. Hizbullah portrayed a distinguished expediency in its political program in an attempt to reconcile, as much as possible, its principles, aims, and political ideology, on the one hand, and its circumstances and objective capabilities, on the other hand, by relying heavily on the jurisprudential concepts of necessity, vices, and interests as a kind of Islamic prima facie duty. This is how Hizbullah’s pragmatism was conducive to forging a marriage of convenience between political ideology and political reality, to the extent of pursuing a policy of infitah sanctioned by its political program. In this pluralistic Islamic cultural sphere, the concept of citizenship (muwatana) reigns, where all people have equal rights and duties and where coexistence and mutual respect are the main norms and assets among Lebanon’s eighteen ethno-confessional communities.

Thus, the logic of operating within the bounds of the Lebanese state has prevailed over the logic of the revolution. The party justifies and legitimizes its political program by resorting to Quranic and jurisprudential bases. Significantly, the Shiite religio-political legacy conferred upon Hizbullah all the authenticity it needed in order to derive from it a political program based upon flexibility and pragmatism. Relying on the progressive nature of Shiite jurisprudence, Hizbullah remolded, constructed, and interpreted its authority in such a way as to bestow legitimacy on its participation in a pluralist polity based upon the quota system and patronage. And so, through this heavy reliance on Shiite jurisprudence, especially the concept of maslaha, Hizbullah was able to change parallel with the circumstances, through its pragmatic interpretation and metamorphosis of wilayat al-faqih. Hizbullah’s metamorphosis could be attributed to changed historical and social circumstances and, more importantly, to the results of interactions with other political actors. Thus, the objective, sociological, and political reality of Lebanon compelled this originally Islamist movement onto the post-Islamist path, even though such post-Islamism remains inconsistent, selective, and pragmatic.

(p.253) Notes

(1.) Quotations in English are my translations.

(2.) See Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, speech delivered at the “Lebanese Political Parties’ Festival in Support of Egypt’s Arabism,” February 7, 2011, at www.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=19822&cid=142; and Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, speech in support of Arab revolutions, March 19, 2011, at www.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=20205&cid=142.

(3.) Joseph Alagha, Hizbullah’s Documents: From the 1985 Open Letter to the 2009 Manifesto (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011), 20.

(4.) Asef Bayat, “The Coming of a Post-Islamist Society,” Critique: Critical Middle East Studies 9 (Fall 1996): 43–52.

(5.) Asef Bayat, Islam and Democracy: What Is the Real Question? (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2007), 17–20.

(6.) Ibid., 20–21.

(7.) Some notable figures who framed such definitions include the following: Hajj Muhammad Ra’d, a member of the Hizbullah shura council and the head of the party’s parliamentary bloc; Sayyid Abd Al-Halim Fadlallah, the head of the party’s think tank, the Consultative Center for Studies and Documentation; Hajj Ghalib Abu Zaynab, a party officer for Muslim–Christian dialogue; Shaykh Shafiq Jaradi, the rector of Al-Ma‘arif Al-Hikmiyya College; Shaykh ‘Ali Daher, the head of Hizbullah’s cultural unit; MP Hasan Fadlallah; MP ‘Ali Fayyad; MP ‘Ali Ammar; MP Sayyid Nawwaf al-Musawi; Shaykh Akram Barakat, the head of the Cultural Islamic Al-Ma‘arif Association; and Shaykh Muhammad Kawtharani, a political council member responsible for the Iraqi file (interviews, Beirut, August and October 2009 and January and June 2010).

(8.) Peter Mandaville, Global Political Islam (New York: Routledge, 2007), 343–348.

(9.) Mahdi N. and ‘Abdallah S., interviews by the author, Beirut, October 21 and 25, 2004, respectively.

(10.) Al-‘Ahd 8 (21 Dhul-Qadah 1404/August 17, 1984): 6.

(11.) Minorities, such as Christians and Jews, were treated as residents holding limited rights and required to pay a poll tax in lieu of almsgiving (zakat).

(12.) Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, National Broadcasting Network, July 21, 2002.

(13.) ‘Ali al-Kurani, Tariqat Hizbullah fi Al-‘Amal Al-Islami [Hizbullah’s method of Islamic mobilization] (Tehran: Maktab Al-I‘lam Al-Islami, Al-Mu’assa Al-‘Alamiyya, 1985); Muhammad Z’aytir, Nazra ‘ala Tarh Al-Jumhuriyya Al-Islamiyya fi Lubnan [A look at the proposal of the Islamic Republic in Lebanon] (Beirut: Al-Wikala Al-Sharqiyya lil-Tawzi‘, 1988).

(14.) Muhammad Z’aytir, Al-Mashru‘ Al-Maruni fi Lubnan: Juzuruhu wa Tatawwuratuhu [The Maronite project in Lebanon: Roots and development] (Beirut: Al-Wikala Al-‘Alamiyya lil-Tawzi‘, 1986).

(15.) Joseph Alagha, The Shifts in Hizbullah’s Ideology (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006), 38–42.

(p.254) (16.) See Subhi al-Tufayli, interview by Tha’ir ‘Abbas, al-Sharq al-Awsat 9067 (September 25, 2003).

(17.) Bayat, Islam and Democracy, 12–13.

(18.) Na’im Qasim, Hizbullah: Al-Manhaj, Al-Tajriba, Al-Mustaqbal [Hizbullah: The curriculum, the experience, the future], 7th rev. and updated ed. (Beirut: Dar Al-Mahajja Al-Bayda’, 2010), 337–343.

(19.) Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, National Broadcasting Network, August 4, 2002.

(20.) Al-Nabulsi argued that from a political standpoint there was a certain wisdom and interest (maslaha) that called upon Hizbullah to participate on the basis of the maxims of Islamic jurisprudence. He added that the political situation lifted any prohibition on Hizbullah’s participation since it safeguards law and order in Lebanese society (National News Agency, August 10, 2005; and see Lebanese daily newspapers the next day).

(21.) Based on interviews I have conducted with high-ranking cadres, including members of the shura council.

(22.) Asef Bayat, “Islamism and Social Movement Theory,” Third World Quarterly 26, no. 6 (2005): 891–908.

(23.) Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, cited in Hasan ‘Izzeddine, “How Is Hizbullah Looked Upon and How Does It Introduce Itself?” Al-Safir, November 12, 2001.

(24.) Al-Intiqad 1267 (May 30, 2008).

(25.) Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, press conference, broadcast live on Al-Manar TV, November 30, 2009, at 1:30 P.M. GMT.

(26.) Alagha, Hizbullah’s Documents, 32.

(27.) Nasrallah, press conference, November 30, 2009.

Notes:

(1.) Quotations in English are my translations.

(2.) See Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, speech delivered at the “Lebanese Political Parties’ Festival in Support of Egypt’s Arabism,” February 7, 2011, at www.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=19822&cid=142; and Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, speech in support of Arab revolutions, March 19, 2011, at www.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=20205&cid=142.

(3.) Joseph Alagha, Hizbullah’s Documents: From the 1985 Open Letter to the 2009 Manifesto (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011), 20.

(4.) Asef Bayat, “The Coming of a Post-Islamist Society,” Critique: Critical Middle East Studies 9 (Fall 1996): 43–52.

(5.) Asef Bayat, Islam and Democracy: What Is the Real Question? (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2007), 17–20.

(6.) Ibid., 20–21.

(7.) Some notable figures who framed such definitions include the following: Hajj Muhammad Ra’d, a member of the Hizbullah shura council and the head of the party’s parliamentary bloc; Sayyid Abd Al-Halim Fadlallah, the head of the party’s think tank, the Consultative Center for Studies and Documentation; Hajj Ghalib Abu Zaynab, a party officer for Muslim–Christian dialogue; Shaykh Shafiq Jaradi, the rector of Al-Ma‘arif Al-Hikmiyya College; Shaykh ‘Ali Daher, the head of Hizbullah’s cultural unit; MP Hasan Fadlallah; MP ‘Ali Fayyad; MP ‘Ali Ammar; MP Sayyid Nawwaf al-Musawi; Shaykh Akram Barakat, the head of the Cultural Islamic Al-Ma‘arif Association; and Shaykh Muhammad Kawtharani, a political council member responsible for the Iraqi file (interviews, Beirut, August and October 2009 and January and June 2010).

(8.) Peter Mandaville, Global Political Islam (New York: Routledge, 2007), 343–348.

(9.) Mahdi N. and ‘Abdallah S., interviews by the author, Beirut, October 21 and 25, 2004, respectively.

(10.) Al-‘Ahd 8 (21 Dhul-Qadah 1404/August 17, 1984): 6.

(11.) Minorities, such as Christians and Jews, were treated as residents holding limited rights and required to pay a poll tax in lieu of almsgiving (zakat).

(12.) Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, National Broadcasting Network, July 21, 2002.

(13.) ‘Ali al-Kurani, Tariqat Hizbullah fi Al-‘Amal Al-Islami [Hizbullah’s method of Islamic mobilization] (Tehran: Maktab Al-I‘lam Al-Islami, Al-Mu’assa Al-‘Alamiyya, 1985); Muhammad Z’aytir, Nazra ‘ala Tarh Al-Jumhuriyya Al-Islamiyya fi Lubnan [A look at the proposal of the Islamic Republic in Lebanon] (Beirut: Al-Wikala Al-Sharqiyya lil-Tawzi‘, 1988).

(14.) Muhammad Z’aytir, Al-Mashru‘ Al-Maruni fi Lubnan: Juzuruhu wa Tatawwuratuhu [The Maronite project in Lebanon: Roots and development] (Beirut: Al-Wikala Al-‘Alamiyya lil-Tawzi‘, 1986).

(15.) Joseph Alagha, The Shifts in Hizbullah’s Ideology (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006), 38–42.

(p.254) (16.) See Subhi al-Tufayli, interview by Tha’ir ‘Abbas, al-Sharq al-Awsat 9067 (September 25, 2003).

(17.) Bayat, Islam and Democracy, 12–13.

(18.) Na’im Qasim, Hizbullah: Al-Manhaj, Al-Tajriba, Al-Mustaqbal [Hizbullah: The curriculum, the experience, the future], 7th rev. and updated ed. (Beirut: Dar Al-Mahajja Al-Bayda’, 2010), 337–343.

(19.) Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, National Broadcasting Network, August 4, 2002.

(20.) Al-Nabulsi argued that from a political standpoint there was a certain wisdom and interest (maslaha) that called upon Hizbullah to participate on the basis of the maxims of Islamic jurisprudence. He added that the political situation lifted any prohibition on Hizbullah’s participation since it safeguards law and order in Lebanese society (National News Agency, August 10, 2005; and see Lebanese daily newspapers the next day).

(21.) Based on interviews I have conducted with high-ranking cadres, including members of the shura council.

(22.) Asef Bayat, “Islamism and Social Movement Theory,” Third World Quarterly 26, no. 6 (2005): 891–908.

(23.) Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, cited in Hasan ‘Izzeddine, “How Is Hizbullah Looked Upon and How Does It Introduce Itself?” Al-Safir, November 12, 2001.

(24.) Al-Intiqad 1267 (May 30, 2008).

(25.) Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, press conference, broadcast live on Al-Manar TV, November 30, 2009, at 1:30 P.M. GMT.

(26.) Alagha, Hizbullah’s Documents, 32.

(27.) Nasrallah, press conference, November 30, 2009.